Cadwgan could barely hear the insults and defamations shouted at him through the haze that encompassed him. If it weren't for the ropes binding him tightly to the stake against his back, his legs would buckle and send him to the ground. The shouts continued as he fought to open his eyes and saw a sea of people around him. A man in dark, mud-stained robes was beneath him, stacking kindling at his feet.

The pain was unbearable. He'd suffered the pain before, but never such as this. The usual wounds upon his wrists and feet were bleeding freely, and blood dripped onto his eyelids from deep scratches torn into his head and face. He was used to these wounds though, they came frequently. But now came the rocks thrown by those surrounding him and each one that struck him seemed to make his other injuries all the more painful. The jagged edges cut into his flesh, but not as deeply as the insults thrown by his own family and friends. Their betrayal was the most crippling injury of all.

Again he forced his eyes open as a clear voice broke through the haze that hovered in his mind, telling him that the suffering could end. As he listened to the voice priests were coming forth once again. He knew they would once more demand his confession as a witch and a heretic, which he would not give. A very pious and virtuous man, Cadwgan would never confess to such crimes against that whom he loved more than life itself. But . . . he would do just about anything else to end the pain. Once more, the soft and caring voice broke through the filter of the haze in his head; gently reminding him there was a way out and he need not suffer so. He ignored the denunciations of the priests before him, their words becoming nothing more than an endless drone of mumbling that wove itself in the fabric of his haze as he desperately focused instead on the only voice that seemed to make any sense to him.

Cadwgan's mind struggled deeply as he listened to the only clear words he could hear. He had fervently prayed to God in his hours of need, knowing that salvation could be his if he only endured. Was God now giving him that salvation? Had his suffering sufficed that which God required? Losing the last of his strength, his head fell forward as a brown robed monk dropped a lit torch upon the kindling beneath his feet.

Cadwgan's whisper of compliance was never heard by the crowd over the roar of the flames as the monk's torch quickly caught upon the kindling and engulfed him in a ring of fire.

There were no screams to be heard when the sudden burst of blinding light filled the sky and thunderous explosion shook the ground of the village. The shockwave plowed through the crowd and village, throwing villagers and leveling many of the poorly constructed buildings. It continued rapidly from the village, felling weakened trees and boulders for miles as the first incinerating flames burst in all directions from the stake, turning those still close by instantly to ash. For a quarter mile the flames billowed out, encompassing the entire village and its people in a heat that melted stone into pools of lava. Any that managed to somehow survive the incinerating heat found themselves choking to their deaths on the sulfuric fumes that now filled the air.

Only when the flames dissipated a mere moment later could the damage truly be seen. The village itself had been completely eradicated without a trace of its existence except for the intermittent small piles of charcoal and ash that had once been trees, buildings, and people. A continuous stream of black choking smoke rose from the earth like a thick blanket that blotted out the afternoon sun, and from that cloak of night emerged a sole nude figure walking unscathed through the residual flames. Steadily he continued until he reached the outskirts of the devastation then turned to survey the destruction. After hardly a moment he turned once more and as he entered the nearby darkened forest . . . Cadwgan smiled.